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Lead content in trinkets alarming

They may make your little one look pretty but they also damage her IQ and fill her system with poison. Children’s jewellery, seemingly innocuous and sold in popular markets across the Capital, contains high levels of lead, a toxic heavy metal that impairs the nervous system, a new study has found.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 02, 2010 11:31 PM IST

They may make your little one look pretty but they also damage her IQ and fill her system with poison. Children’s jewellery, seemingly innocuous and sold in popular markets across the Capital, contains high levels of lead, a toxic heavy metal that impairs the nervous system, a new study has found.

The range of jewellery for children includes a huge collection of trinkets like bracelets, earrings, hoops, amulets, rings, bangles and the like. They are mostly made of alloys and cheap metals, usually coated with bright colours.

Markets at Janpath, Lajpat Nagar, Sarojini Nagar, Sadar Bazar, and Karol Bagh — places where researchers have picked up the study samples from — are teeming with roadside vendors and small shops selling these items for a bargain.

“The amount of lead varies in each item but it is surely there. Not a single sample was found without lead,” said Prashant Rajankar, co-investigator in the report called Toxic Trinkets by NGO Toxics Link.

Of the 54 samples of various items tested, rings contain the highest amount of lead, which is used as a malleable agent to easily shape the alloys. Much of the lead is also present in the paints used on the metals.

No amount of lead is safe for the body, which takes a long time to rid itself of lead contamination. Lead is an organo-metallic compound, which means it loosely sticks to the surface of the items. Over time, it leaches to the skin of the user and children tend to put their infected hands into their mouths — a common habit known as 'pica'.

Dr Arvind Taneja, paediatrician at Max Super Specialty hospital, Saket, says pica is a major cause of toxic exposure in children.

“I remember a case of mental retardness and deafness, as well as a case in which it was difficult to understand the abnormalities in a child but when the parents took the child to the US, they found really high lead levels in the blood.”

India does not have any health or environmental standard for the use of lead in paint or jewellery.

“The paint industry has adopted a standard that is voluntary. So, most manufacturers still use lead in their products. In artificial jewellery, the issue is completely ignored and unregulated,” Rajankar said.

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